It's National Minority Health Month and the Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care Reform (Coalition) is working from the principle: Reform. It’s Good for Your Health to advance the mission of health equity in Maryland. Through the successful implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other state-based initiatives we recognize a unique, once in a generation opportunity to transform the health care landscape and to ensure that everyone has access to the full range of health care services they need to live healthy and productive lives. We also know that unless we address the existing gender, racial and ethnic disparities we will not have lived up to the promise of reform.
In Maryland we are fortunate that Governor O’Malley has made the ACA’s full implementation a high priority. His Administration has used this opportunity to give stakeholders a real and meaningful role in the process and to emphasize the goal of achieving health equity. The Coalition has been involved in drafting legislation for Maryland’s Health Benefit Exchange Act of 2012 (SB238/HB443), which sets out the basic principle of health equity, and another law that established Health Enterprise Zones (SB234/HB439) for the purpose of reducing health disparities. The Coalition has partnered with Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to implement the State Health Improvement Process (SHIP). This establishes 39 measurable objectives to improve health outcomes, 24 of which directly address disparities. The Coalition is engaging with groups on the local level through health improvement coalitions to support the SHIP’s goals.
We are also kicking off two exciting initiatives. The first is the publication of a white paper, Health Equity: Maryland’s Call to Action. In this we will highlight the challenges and opportunities to achieve health equity through health care reform and provide recommendations on how to achieve these. This will be released in September 2012 at a forum – Health Care. Women of Color Get It. This will bring together those working in areas that include health policy, public health, consumer advocacy, and minority health and disparities to engage in discussions throughout which will be interwoven the thread of achieving health equity in our state. At the same time, we want to empower women of color to raise their own voices to achieve our shared goals of high-quality, affordable, comprehensive and accessible health care for all.